During his second Roman imprisonment, and shortly before his execution, the apostle Paul wrote his last epistle in the New Testament to Timothy, sometime between A.D. 66 to 68.
In 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul informed his friend and brother in Christ, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”
We often use that idea of “departure” today in referring to someone who has “departed” from this earth-life.
In one of last week’s articles, on “The Outer and Inner Man,” a boat in ruin was used to figuratively represent the case of some people today who would become physically disabled or limited to what they once were able to do.
But there is also another way in which a ship in good shape can be used metaphorically in pertaining to one’s death. For the Greek word (analusis) that is rendered as “departure” in 2 Timothy 4:6 has as its third meaning, “departure…a metaphor drawn from loosing from moorings preparatory to setting sail” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).
That makes for a beautiful picture for those who will be making their voyage to Paradise, where Jesus had also gone with the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23:43).
Though it is sad to see our loved ones departing on that voyage, yet we know that they are truly going to a better shore when they are God’s children.
And what should also bring comfort to our hearts is in knowing that if we also submit our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and live for Him, that we, too, will one day be able to make that blissful passage to join them in that much “…better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16), where God “…will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…” (Rev. 21:4). There will also not be any sickness, any poverty, any bellies aching to be fed, any prejudice, any injustice, any of the terribly ugly and inhumane acts that people have often committed during this earth-life. No hate, no murders, no theft, no crimes of any kind, no liars, no vulgarity, no immorality, and nothing else to mar the beauty and perfection of that amazing life beyond. Simply put, heaven is a place where sin does not exist; but where the glory, goodness, and blessings of God eternally abound! How wonderful heaven must be!
In view of what the Lord has in store for His faithful followers, the apostle Paul declares, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:21-25, emphasis mine).
Though we cannot say with certainty whom the actual author is, the following has been attributed to not only Henry Jackson van Dyke of Germantown, Pennsylvania, who lived from 1852 to 1933; but also to Luther F. Beecher, who died in 1903 at the age of 91. The writing has been called…
Parable of Immortality
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, “There she goes!”
Gone where? Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes!” there are other eyes watching her coming . . . and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . . “Here she comes!”
May we all be ready for that time when our departure will come. For if we are, what a great eternity we will enjoy!